Nature’s extinction is costing a fortune
For the first time, the cost of damaging nature is calculated in money. Conclusion? The extinction of species and the erosion of natural habitat is extremely expensive. Without any urgent measures, the world economy will have to sacrifice thousands of billions of euros in the coming thirty years to save the planet.
The countries that will be hit the most, in relation to their national income, are Madagascar, Togo, Vietnam, and Mozambique. The US is the forerunner with the largest loss. If nothing changes, the American gross domestic product will diminish with 75 billion euros per year in the coming decades. In Japan, it is 73 billion euros, and the UK will lose 20 billion euros.
The figures come from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and are published by the study called ‘Global Futures’. It’s the first time WWF has calculated the value of the macroeconomic costs of nature’s extinction. The study was made for 140 countries, together with organizations and universities.
Humankind depends on natural resources for its existence. If natural habitat – woods, swamps, coral reefs – deteriorate, the essential ecosystems are getting disturbed. As a consequence, there will be fewer fish, pollinators, and trees, having direct implications on the economy.
Last year, a worldwide biodiversity study showed that biodiversity and ecosystems are suffering more than ever, “not only causing an environmental crisis but also an economic malaise”, if measures are not taken, warns WWF. To map this economical impact, researchers now selected six ecosystems of which sufficient data were available.
Business as usual
Researchers looked at the pollination of crops, the coastal protection against flooding and erosion, the availability of water, wood production, fishing, and the stocking of CO2. Then they analyzed several scenarios.
If we persist our actual way of living – business as usual – the economic damage will represent more than 9 000 billion euros by 2050, or 450 billion a year. The agricultural sector will suffer most, but also production and trade will decrease. Apart from that, the prices of resources (wood, cotton, fruit, and vegetables) will increase. Poor countries with vulnerable economies will pay the highest price.
Climate summit for biodiversity
In October, scientists worldwide will gather in China for a kind of climate summit for biodiversity. The event will be followed by the COP26 in Glasgow, the climate summit where countries will present their plans for CO2 reduction in the coming years. By linking economic figures to nature’s loss, researchers hope to convince politicians and policymakers to actually interfere.
Killing a whale, for instance, is a costly affair, according to research by the International Monetary Fund (Internationaal Monetair Fonds, IMF). The killing destroys 2 million dollars (€1,85 million) the animal represents to help to save the planet.
More whales, more phytoplankton
The whale represents several ‘ecosystem services’ that are favorable to other fish, eco-tourism, and the stock of CO2. If a whale dies, it sinks to the bottom of the ocean and it takes 33 tons of Co2 with it in its body. The CO2 will stay there for ages.
More whales in the ocean also mean more phytoplankton, the smallest organism in the oceans that absorbs 40% of the CO2 in the atmosphere. So, more phytoplankton means more absorption of CO2.
Biologists estimate there is only one-quarter left of the original population of whales due to plastic pollution, the shipping industry, and other environmental threats. More whales in the ocean would significantly reduce climate problems, the biologists presume.
But the protection of whales also costs money. Some researchers wondered whether this cost would be economically sensible, and they tried to estimate the financial value of a whale. With several factors taken into account – the market price of CO2 emissions, the average activity of an adult whale, and its contribution to climate, tourism, and the stimulation of other species like fish and sea birds – they estimated that whales would have a financial value of 2 million dollars per whale or more than 1 000 billion dollars for the actual population of large whales.
The protection of whales is useful, the scientists concluded. One option to do so could be financial compensation for shipping companies making them opt for other trajectories than the whales’ habitat.